GROWING PAINS: Son Relates to Parents From a Virtual World

I was expecting my daughter, whom we have christened Dasha, about a year ago when my son, Yegor, then 7, suggested a possible name: "Let's call my sister Sonya when she's born." I wasn't surprised, because Sonya, a derivative of Sofia, is a wonderful Russian name. But Yegor's further explanation amused me to no end: "In honor of my Sony Play Station."

Yegor is a big fan of computer games. We bought the play station two years ago to mark Yegor's first day at school. Since then, there have been few things that interest him as much. He can describe for hours the details of his victories or defeats during his hunt for hidden treasures or explain the easiest way to get to the secret plant. When he is playing, his eyes shine, his cheeks burn, and he looks so excited that I begin to worry that the feelings are too strong for him.

Happily, he is normally too busy with his homework to sit for long stretches in front of the TV screen, which could harm his health. But since the gray box appeared in our home, I feel that my authority (or prestige) has been catastrophically reduced in my son's eyes; I can neither drive through a qualification lap as speedily as his father, nor sometimes even understand a word in their heated auto-related discussions. Plus, Yegor's father installed some powerful dynamic controls on our TV set to let the mysterious sounds of the underground labyrinths waft through our apartment. Then my husband completely won Yegor's heart when he brought home the worn-out front seat of his car to rig up a game closer to reality. The seat is now the central element of Yegor's bedroom interior.

But sometimes I enjoy Yegor's favor, too. "Oh, you have great shoes. Just like Lara Croft has," he noted recently. Lara Croft, the fearless, smart heroine of Yegor's favorite adventure, "Tomb Rider," is Yegor's idol. He has dozens of portraits that he has drawn of her, using different artistic techniques, hung on the walls of his room.

However, there are some positive moments that the play station has introduced into our lives. Yegor finally mastered his reading skills when we bought him a magazine called "Play Station," which contained information about how to successfully complete certain levels of a popular game. Then he decided to become a computer-games creator himself and has written a few scenarios full of complicated tricks and spelling mistakes.

Now that Yegor is on summer break, he has more time to improve his ability to fight centaurs of ancient Greece or race along Formula 1 tracks. So these days when I come home from work, I hear Yegor asking his father, "Listen, did you drive my Ferrari yesterday? You smashed it again, and I'll have to spend so much to repair it that I won't be able to buy a Lamborghini."